20 June 2017

The Next in Line: Logiclub Collective's Arthur Tan, Earl of Manila, Aries, and Dante & Amigo

Over the past couple of years, the local music scene experienced a renaissance, with the emergence of fresh acts, new music styles and movements, and a deeper sense of musical appreciation and understanding among the Filipino crowd.

A lot of factors helped push the rebirth of local music – technological advancement, the Internet, hubs that sprung up serving as avenues for live music, and communities and collectives supporting the rise of musicians.

One of the movements that took center stage was electronic music. Here, we get to know four up and coming artists from the Logiclub Collective as they shared their creative processes, thoughts on the music industry, and insights on the impressive developments in the local music scene.

Photos by Zaldine Alvaro

Arthur Tan – DJ
As a DJ, can you describe your musical style?
It’s a mix of 90’s hiphop, pop, and rock. Usually in my sets, I like to incorporate a lot of early rock/punk-rock songs like Blink 182, and bands or artists that I grew up to.

How has your musical style developed and progressed from when you first started up to now?
My style changed when I joined Logiclub. Before I was just a normal club DJ, but after I got recruited to the collective, I was exposed to more kinds of sounds – both by the music they made or artists that they shared with me. My style branched out from commercial to a more experimental one. I discovered producers that I never heard of before and took inspiration from them.

Tell us more about your creative process when it comes to making your beats or playing your sets.
When it comes to my sets, I always try to have a theme or a story. Whenever I play a set, I always keep in mind to play songs that will come out as a surprise to the crowd. I like to go a bit nostalgic. If I’m preparing to play for events, I always go back to older songs that people used to listen to or something that will make people go, “Oh, I haven’t heard this in so long.” Then they would want to hear it again. It makes it more memorable. I’m more of a throwback DJ. 

What’s your assessment of the current local music industry?
I think it has progressed pretty well. Since I started DJ-ing back in Fiamma up to now, music has changed so much. Before, it was purely EDM. From there, it branched out to a deeper set of electronic music. I think now people are more open-minded to music; they don’t stick with just the mainstream or what they see on TV anymore. I guess it has a lot to do with Spotify, and the Internet in general. I think the music scene now has grown so much more than just pop or whatever is ‘uso’ or in.

What do you think helped in that perspective?
Well, I would say Spotify, SoundCloud, and the Internet in general really helped the music scene, especially for new artists. The unrelenting efforts of different artists – like CRWN, Jess Connelly, and Kidthrones helped a lot. The way that they pushed their music was very effective, and it helped people have a deeper understanding of music. 

Another thing were the organizations who brought in different artists like Wanderland (Karpos). They made a big impact on the music scene, not just because they brought in headliners, but the whole idea of the festival itself made more people want to go out there and appreciate music. It gave more opportunities for local bands and artists to showcase what they have.

What’s something you would like our readers to know? 
Keep doing what you love – whether it’s music or any kind of art form. Whatever you do in life, stay creative.

Earl of Manila – Earl Limjoco, Music Producer and Singer

How would you describe your sound?
My music style is more of soul, pop, and RnB. Before, I just did whatever I felt like doing. I didn’t have any certain genre. I didn’t have a solid concept of who I am as an artist so I just did whatever pops in my head when I’m playing. Now, I’m trying to have a unifying concept already so I have a cohesive sound especially since I have a lot of musical influences.

Who are your musical influences?
My top five would have to be Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, Usher, Keith Sweat, and Baby Face.

How has being a member of a collective like Logiclub helped you as an artist?
It helped me a lot in terms of confidence building. Before I didn’t have go-to people to share my music with before it comes out. Now, I have people who can critique my work. I have friends to help me produce the music and a support system who gets me.

Can you tell us more about your creative process? How do you come up with your songs?
Honestly, I find inspiration in random places and times – most of the time, right before I sleep. (laughs)

I usually start with the melody followed by the drum beats. When I write a song, it’s always the chords first because I need to “feel” it before adding touches and more of my style to it. This works since I’m also a singer and I write my own music, I need to hear the melodies first so I can get an idea of the kind of story it evokes.

Now, little by little, I try to do things the other way around – write the lyrics first so I have a concept at the onset. It’s a trial-and-error process. There is not a single way on how to do it.

How do you see the current state of the local music scene?
I think it’s actually good to put out music right now because everyone is listening compared to before. When I was growing up, I only relied on what I see on TV in channels like Myx, MTV, and Channel V. Artists and bands then were not really that experimental when it comes to their style.

Nowadays, people have their own crowd. They have their own movement or style that they associate with so when there are musicians and bands who put out good material that matches their style, they get hooked. Artists and bands get to have almost an automatic fan base.

Why do you think it progressed this much?
It’s the internet. I started by posting my songs online. I didn’t have any expectations when I posted my material. I just did, and it went on from there.

The impact of the internet on us musicians is so overwhelming that a few weeks ago, someone reached out to me from Toronto because she was looking for producers to work with. Luckily, she happened to be visiting the Philippines so she messaged me on my Facebook page and asked to collaborate with me while she was here. Since she’s a singer and a writer, she asked me to make the music and the beats to her songs. I ended up working with her for her EP. I think that’s really cool because what were the odds that she’ll discover my music – and it’s all because of the Internet.

Aries – Ram Alonzo, DJ/Producer
www.soundcloud.com/aaries / Also on Spotify

How did you start to venture in the electronic music scene?
I had a band back in high school. We were post-hardcore then so it was a completely different scene from where I am now. That’s also when I started dabbling with electronic music because of bands like Attack Attack! and Asking Alexandria because they had synthesizers in their sound so I experimented with that.

But I got deep into electronic music back in 2014 when I met Seña of She’s Only Sixteen. He introduced me to local electronic music artists like Similarobjects, Floating Sound Nation, Like Animals, and After School Special when he invited me to Bakunawa. That was my first experience in local electronic music, and it really inspired me. If I didn’t go to that event then, most likely there wouldn’t be Aries.

Can you describe your musical style?
Aries is mainly ambient, glitchy, down tempo. I have house tracks, though. I also have drum and bass tracks, but mainly ambient.

What is your creative process like? 
I usually start with the melody and the chord progression. When I make tracks, I usually finish about 70% of it in two or three days then I let it park for a while to avoid experiencing fatigue with the sound because I have a tendency to get tired of hearing it over and over. After some time, like a month or two, that’s when I listen to it again and finish making the whole song.

Where do you get inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from things I see online and through my friends. There are a lot of great artists like Jacob Colier and King Cruel, but my ultimate musical influence is Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. I consider him a musical god. He’s a creative monster (laughs).

How would you assess the local music industry now?
Now that I’m a part of it, I can see the musical prowess of local musicians in depth. Sometimes I get surprised and find myself saying, “Wow, this is local?” Before, the sound of local music sounded so similar with each other. Now, it has gotten more diverse, and there are a lot of really talented and underrated artists and musicians.

Why do you think this is so?
It’s the Internet’s fault. Before, people can only access music through radio, TV, or old records, and friends. Now when you search even just one song on Spotify, YouTube, or Soundcloud, it allows you to branch out to different artists.

Dante & Amigo – Bryan Dante Moya, Producer and Andreas Sto. Domingo, Rapper
www.facebook.com/dantexamigo / Also on Spotify

Can you give us a background on how you started as a duo?
Dante: We came about when we started hanging out in my place. I would make beats, and he’ll rap over it until we started recording and decided to put our music out.

Please describe to us Dante & Amigo’s musical style.
Dante: I would say computer fusion and guitar rap.

Andreas: We are heavily influenced by Outkast, Kanye West, and the guys from Logiclub.

Speaking of, how has being part of Logiclub helped you as artists?
Dante: Of course, they helped share network, but it’s mostly having friends who have the same interests and people who resonate with you.

Can you share to us your creative process?
Andreas: Most of the time, he makes the beats and send them to me then I write for it. I go to his house to show him how it goes, and we talk about how to fix the structure of the song. Then we record it.

Dante: Most of the time, the music comes first, but we also have songs where the words came first.

What’s your current assessment of the local music industry?
Dante: I think it’s in a pretty good place right now because I was at an all-indie gig in MOA recently. It was one of the first gigs that didn’t have headliners in it. It felt a lot like coming of age because there were no mainstream artists in the lineup.

What would you like the readers to know?
Andreas: Expect more from us. We’re going to keep making music. We’ll try to make it as nice and real as possible. We’re planning to have a couple of releases this year so watch out for that.

- - -

With more artists and acts popping up, the local music scene is definitely thriving and nothing short of talented musicians and bands who can provide variety and quality music for Filipinos – and the rest of the world – to listen to. Indeed, our is in a really good place right now, and it’s something that we all can be excited and proud of.

06 June 2017

Filipino Street Artists at Meeting of Styles 2017 share why they pursue Graffiti

Meeting of Styles is an international network of graffiti artists and aficionados that began in Wiesbaden, Germany in 2002. Its main highlight as a forum is the yearly graffiti jam, which attracts hundreds of graffiti enthusiasts. The event was initially launched to provide a focal point for urban street culture and graffiti art to reach a larger community.

Which started in Germany is now hosted in different cities across the globe. The movement continually grew as more and more people wanted to host Meeting of Styles where they are located. In 2014, Meeting of Styles was brought to our local shores thanks to the initiative of Trip63. And last April 22, the fourth edition of Meeting of Styles Philippines took place at Anonas LRT City Center in Quezon City, where the MoS Philippines 2016 was also held. 

This year's iteration of Meeting of Styles is the biggest one so far. The organizers managed to bring dozens of foreign artists from different countries like Japan, South Korea, Italy, and the United States. Together with their local counterparts, MoS Philippines definitely served its role as a melting pot, where all artists got to exchange ideas, works, and skills. Given this huge event for the local graffiti community, it led us to yearn for a deeper understanding of what it means to them. We talked to five Filipino street artists with different backgrounds who have been pursuing graffiti to know more about this culture.

Photography by Zaldine Jae Alvaro

Bato is a full-time visual artist from Quezon City and a member of the collective Pilipinas Street Plan. He is also part of the graffiti crews – Jokers (JKS) and Guerilla Aerosol Kru (GAK). With unbridled passion to create, he has become a regular name in the art scene. Whether for his own solo show or as part of a group exhibit, he has been continuously putting out impressive works.

"Graffiti is not just a movement, it is a lifestyle. If you love to do something then be one with it and embrace it."

How and when did you start pursuing graffiti?
I started graffiti eight years ago, just some random tags on walls using cheap markers and local cans with stock caps. Because during that time access to supplies was hard. And I also started doing some (sticker) slaps at the same time.

Why do you pursue it?
Well, graffiti has been there for me ever since, graffiti and street art in general gave me freedom to express what ever my heart and mind desires.

How do events like Meeting of Styles help you as an artist?
I participated in Meeting of Styles Philippines since the start. I experienced the transition of it from just an ordinary paint jam to an event where in almost a hundred graff heads painted. These kind of events help in keeping the graffiti scene alive, not just for me as an artist but also for everyone who made their world revolve around graffiti. Events like MoS keep the fire burning, inspiring the old writers/artist to continue what they are doing, and to inspire the newcomers to continue to pursue what they are looking to achieve.

What led to your transition from doing graffiti to being a full-time artist?
Being an artist is not what is meant for me as a profession, but I pursued it because of my passion. I can say that graffiti embraced me all throughout, it became my platform to explore new ways to create, and new things to make. Graffiti will always be a part of me, it is a huge puzzle piece of myself that can never be altered, and I will be doing this until I die. In order to feed my hunger, I commit myself in perfecting my craft and continuously pushing my self to showcase better works not only for myself but also for the community.

How has painting walls shaped you into the artist that you are today? 
Graffiti is not just a movement, it is a lifestyle. If you love to do something then be one with it and embrace it. That was my life-belief which also applies to why I do graffiti. Graffiti's diverse nature helped me to keep pushing myself to do even better and rewarded me with a sense of fulfillment with each piece I created.

Despite your numerous shows and projects, why do you still pursue graffiti?
What I create in galleries is in a different context to what I do in graffiti, I can say that there are two kinds of myself in the art scene, I wanted to create works which would differentiate one from the other. What I do in graffiti is what I can call the free-spirited side of me. I paint a dog for the sole reason that I want to paint a dog, no other political agenda or propaganda, it just makes me happy when I do graffiti, no other reasons.

A resident of Mandaluyong aka Tiger City, Meow's love for hiphop led him to practicing both its music and visual elements. He represents graff crews – SDFK, TCMF, and SBA. Aside from his proficiency with spray paint, he also writes rhymes and rocks the microphone for Murder Death Kill and Sabretooth Academy.

"Graffiti for me is a competition with myself and others."

How and when did you start pursuing graffiti?
I started doing graffiti because of hiphop. I did my first piece in 2003 or 2004. My cousin gave me a copy of The Source along with baggy pants to get me started on what to wear. I learned a lot from that issue, not just the brands that I should be getting, but also about the elements of hiphop. Practicing all four was impossible, my body couldn't handle breakdancing and I couldn't afford a turntable back then so I got stuck with rap and graffiti.

My father had spray paints for his car and there are some that I use for model kits, so it wasn't hard for me to get started with graffiti. I didn't know people who did graffiti so I usually painted by myself, or sometimes I tag with some gangsters in our neighborhood.

I met Flip 1 (Philippine graffiti pioneer) at a hardware store, he was purchasing cans that he would use for a hiphop event the same day. We exchanged numbers in that encounter, and since then, he has been getting me to paint with him together with some local and foreign graff writers.

Why do you pursue it?
I love the feeling of just painting on a wall – doing everything on the spot, being able to finish with limited time and coming up with my own style. Graffiti for me is a competition with myself and others. There are goals that I want to achieve. I always try to come up with something new, go as big as I can, test my skill and improve.

How do events like Meeting of Styles help you as an artist?
I'm challenged to push myself further since there is a wider audience, and it's almost like competing with foreigners and representing the country. The exposure can get you connections, and Artists can learn from each other.

How different is your creative process when you sketch a graffiti piece compared to when you write rap lyrics?
I don't really do sketches for my graffiti pieces, everything is done on the spot. Though there are times that I do letter studies, I don't really prepare or bring a sketch for a painting session. During my first couple of years doing graffiti, I would bring a sketch. But eventually I realized that I have a hard time copying what's on paper, and it is a waste of time to draw something on paper and then do it again on the wall.

Writing for me is time consuming. I don't get satisfied with my lyrics that easily. What I've recorded now might have some or a lot of changes soon. Though sometimes it's too late once there's been an official release so I would try to recite the new lyrics during gigs.

How does music affect your art?
I don't think it does, or if so, not much. Hiphop gets me hyped so I'm just gonna have my head bopping while painting or drawing but it wouldn't really have any effect on the output.

Why do you prioritize your art over your music?
I work as an artist for a living. Though it may not be graffiti in particular, the fact that I would have to do art to earn keeps me from writing and making art for myself. Graffiti is something that I can squeeze in without taking too much time from my other priorities since all I have to do is just go out and paint. Unlike with writing, I would still need to set up that mood or get in the zone and have that sudden burst of ideas. But there was a period in my life when I was more into rapping than in graffiti or art. I guess once I've decided on doing a solo project then I'm gonna be focusing more on making music, but right now I'm just working on verses for collaborations and for Sabretooth Academy and MDK.

Born, raised, and currently residing in Quezon City, Kookoo is hailed by many as the most prominent female graffiti artist in the Philippines. She picked up graffiti eight years ago, and have continuously progressed as an artist. In a field started and dominated by men, she has earned respect, and is a testament that gender is not a hindrance for an artist who is into her craft.

"We are in the 21st century, I believe both men and women are equally empowered, driven and strong."

How and when did you start pursuing graffiti? 

When I was in college (Fine Arts), almost all of my friends do street art, after school or sometimes over the weekend. I usually watch and document them during their paint sessions. I got curious, and one day I tried painting graffiti with my blockmates. My friends and colleagues in this community inspired and motivated me to do more. That was in 2009, and that’s when I officially fell in love with street art.

Why do you pursue it? 
I feel alive and stoked whenever I do it, especially together with other artists. I like the idea of doing it as a public art, which can reach different people from different walks of life in random scenarios. Like for example, commuters going to and from work, passersby, people stuck in traffic, etc.  For me, as counterpart of my canvas paintings, this is my extrovert-side. I just want to positively contribute as much as I can to our urban art community in providing art more accessible to the public.

How do events like Meeting of Styles help you as an artist? 
For me, meeting and observing other artists is one way of learning, and this is the best time I can watch and observe other artists I admire and look up to. This kind of event makes our (art) community stronger too, in terms of acknowledging and establishing that we urban artists truly exist and create.

As a female graffiti artist, are there any hardships or disadvantages that you face? 
I actually prefer being called an "Artist" without categorizing my gender. As an artist, painting graffiti is challenging in terms of unpredictable factors such as weather and location; but that’s what makes it more exciting because it’s the artist who has to adjust and improvise in different kinds of environment he/she is in.

In a scene filled with men, why should female artists pursue it? If a young female graffiti artist would ask you for advice, what would you tell her?
We are in the 21st century, I believe both men and women are equally empowered, driven and strong. I believe it doesn’t really make a difference of what gender you’re in as long as you are practicing and focusing on your craft. My piece of advice to an artist who wants to pursue street art is to keep on creating and reaching out. Find the right people to inspire you positively, and charge your bad days to experiences. I believe that every artist has their personal struggles, may it be financially, emotionally or mentally, and their art are sometimes compromised. My advice is to make it as your motivation to keep going forward. All the sketches in your sketchpad (or blackbook), materialize it. Go out, find your wall, paint it, and show it. Each day, make sure to reach your full potential as a person and as an artist.

Hailing from San Juan City, Chill of Three Flare Krew (TFK) and PSP started with street art by slapping stickers and painting stencils with his college friends back in 2006. A year later, he decided to focus more on graffiti by doing tags, bombs, and pieces. Today, he works as a photographer and muralist, while not relenting to his decade-old relationship with graffiti.

"At the time, there was no outlet for young people like me to showcase or display their works. But the streets became our canvas and our gallery."

How and when did you start pursuing graffiti?
I started in 2007 when I first saw PSP – their graffiti and stickers adorned the walls and scattered around the streets of Manila. I also figured most of them came from FEU, so I searched for them, hung out with them, and learned from them. That's how all these paint sessions began.

Why do you pursue it?
At the time, there was no outlet for young people like me to showcase or display their works. But the streets became our canvas and our gallery.

How do events like Meeting of Styles help you as an artist?
It is where different cultures unite to do one thing they love doing, and share the same passion for it.

How would you compare the graffiti scene today to a decade ago when you first started out?
Back then, it was a struggle, nobody knows where they belong and what to do. Every one has their own thing. There was lack of materials. But the energy we had was different back then. We were fresh, we were excited.

What made you continue doing graffiti?
I love what I'm doing. I like painting walls, the camaraderie, sharing techniques, and different styles. I never lost the fire that made me do what I'm still doing. I kept the fire burning by always doing new things.

Ten years in, what gives you the purpose to continue as an artist?
Seeing the community come together and grow bigger, opportunities keep popping up, and people noticing what we do and call it art and us, artists.

Never represents his hometown of Santa Rosa City with his crew Laguna Graff Squad (LGS). Currently residing in Marikina City, he is also a member of PSP, TFK, ECDK, and GAK. A graphic artist by day, and a graffiti artist on his free time, he makes sure to always allot a budget for spray paint to keep doing what he's passionate about.

"I can buy my stuff for graffiti because I have a day job. I paint on weekends or when there's free time."  

How and when did you start pursuing graffiti?
I started around 2009, trying out something different during my college years, and seeing a lot of graffiti around Manila is what kept me from pushing it.

Why do you pursue it?
It's a different medium of getting your artwork to be seen by the public. Also, it's my stress reliever, and I think a place with graffiti makes it better.

How do events like Meeting of Styles help you as an artist?
It's an exposure to a bigger audience because Meeting of Styles is an international event. You are surrounded by many foreign and local artists that keep the scene moving. And connecting with them is what helps me as an artist.

Can one pursue graffiti while also having a day job?
I can buy my stuff for graffiti because I have a day job. I paint on weekends or when there's free time. I make sure I paint once a month.

What keeps you focused on your art while also tending to your livelihood?
I separate my art from my livelihood. I try to always keep the balance between the two.

How important is it to have a day job but still pursue graffiti for you?
It's kind of hard to earn money in graffiti, there's a lot of players out there, so having a day job for me is important to sustain this graffiti stuff. Well basically, it keeps me going as a graffiti artist. It's a huge challenge on how do I keep up, but at least I can manage to paint on a regular basis.

30 May 2017

On This Island: A night out with Curtismith

For the second episode of On This Island, our host, Christopher Catral (MNL$) met up with Mito Fabie aka Curtismith to know more about his story and his pursuit of music. Along the way, they visited KAPWA Studio, Bucky's, and Music Platinum KTV in Poblacion, Makati City

Get a glimpse of where Curtismith stands as a musician, how he got started, how he handles hate and appreciation towards his craft, and more about his journey in this episode. Watch him open up about his background and show a more candid side of himself.

The night started at Kapwa Studio – a creative hub and grooming studio – where they warmed up for an insightful conversation all throughout the night. After Curtismith opens up about his life background and shared a few stories about beginning his music journey, they leave Kapwa to walk around Poblacion, Makati to grab something to eat. They eventually end up in Bucky's where Chris starts the conversation about Curtismith's success and everything that comes with it, including various criticisms that he get. And to end the night on a high note, they visit Music Platinum KTV and closes the episode with Don't Stop Believin'.

Host: Christopher Catral (MNL$) 
Editor: Alex Cruz 
Cameras: Anton Angeles, EJ Angeles & Alex Cruz 
Production Manager: Mark Concepcion 
Producers: EJ Angeles, Christopher Catral, Marvin Conanan & Sara Martinez
Production Partner: Playhouse Studio

28 May 2017

Curious Curator on Art Appreciation and Showcasing Visayas- and Mindanao-based Filipino Artists

Art is no longer a thing of the elite. Through technological advancements, especially social media, that make sharing experiences a breeze, we’ve arrived at an era where art is accessible and gets more attention than ever. Individuals from different sectors and classes are now welcome to consume and elevate it. This movement is apparent in the recent popularity of open-to-the-public art fairs, the boom of local art galleries which paved the way for an influx of new artists, and the expansion of concepts art tackles. It is truly relieving to realize that we’ve come that far. We still couldn’t deny, however, that there's yet a long way to go, in terms of making art truly universal. And that leaves a challenge to all of us. 

Fortunately, there are those who have already started the work, taking risks to trail the path towards revolutionizing art consumption and/or appreciation. For one, there is Karen Nomorosa and Prim Paypon―a Biology professor and an NGO owner, respectively―who were convinced that the lack of an art degree shouldn't stop one from heeding this call. Through their mutual love for art, they brought Curious Curator to the table―an art incubator and startup anchored on the desire to establish a non-mainstream avenue for starting art enthusiasts and collectors. More than redefining art appreciation and exhibition, though, Curious Curator is driven by the vision to bridge the gap between the vibrant art scene in Metro Manila and the budding artists from Visayas and Mindanao. Upon its shoulders is the hope to make these underrated artists have the recognition and opportunities they so deserve. 

PURVEYR sat with Karen and Prim to better know this new concept that, frankly, has also sparked a lot of questions in our heads.

"to be a platform for these very talented yet very young artists outside of Metro Manila who also have that hope to someday become professional artists." 

When and how did Curious Curator start?

Prim: Karen and I have been friends for 13 years. And it was only in the recent years that we were able to find out that we're both art enthusiasts. That kinda started the discussion about our love for the arts. But we established the Curious Curator just because we felt that, ideally, the Manila Art Scene should also be participated in by the Visayas and Mindanao artists. 

Karen: I think it's also driven by the fact that Prim comes from the Visayas and he's really active in development work. So, when we were bouncing around the idea of maybe doing something like a gallery, we realized that maybe we should really feature artists that have a hard time accessing mainstream galleries here in Manila—great, talented artists who even won international competitions but still have a hard time. 

Prim: We did an informal survey and found that in every 10 Filipino artists that we've interacted with in Ilo-ilo and Cebu, only two gets invited to be a part of a group exhibition or to be staged as a gallery artist here in Metro Manila. When we tried to deconstruct the problem, we actually found out that there's not really an art incubation or acceleration here in the Philippines. So, we tried the possibility of starting an art incubation and acceleration—something to bridge the gap between the art galleries in Manila and the artists in Visayas and Mindanao—in a very start-up framework, since Karen and I also couldn’t afford to put up a physical gallery. We launched it on September 30 last year, on the same night that we launched our first exhibition. 

Founders of Curious Curator: Prim and Karen

What do you envision for Curious Curator?

Karen: Our end goal for the artists is to connect them to the mainstream galleries here. So our success metric, other than selling the works from their two-man or solo exhibitions, is getting picked up by a mainstream gallery later on to later have their own show in that gallery. 

Prim: We call it an art incubator and accelerator because it's not just about tapping an artist and asking them to make ten artworks for us to show. We keep in mind that they've never had an exposure here in Manila so we try to guide them in terms of sizes of the artworks and deciding on the prices. 

What drove you to forward this cause?

Prim: Perhaps passion started it but Karen and I would want to believe that we’re just strongly guided by our “why”—why we actually did the Curious Curator in the first place. We always knew that our profit is very slim but our success metric for Curious Curator is whether or not the two artists we exhibit get invited by Manila art galleries. 

How do you select the artists?

Prim: We have certain criteria for selecting the artist. We profile the artists that we've interacted with and those we've read in the news—those who made it to international competitions. It's really an entire process of selection. Since we're an incubator, we choose those who have never had a solo exhibition here in Manila but have won a legitimate art competition. We also want to work with artists who can be mentored, in the sense that we'd be able to work with the artists from the concept creation stage and help them define their signature strokes. We also try to professionalize, prepare them for potential buyers who are coming from Manila. 

Can you describe this creative process with these artists?

Prim: It's all collaborative. When we find an artist, we try to understand what makes this artist really good. So that we could help him/her with the stroke, the concepts, the texture, the colors that he/she would use. Then we try to come up with a relevant social concept which might match the artist's style. 

Karen: But it's not as if we're imposing 'cause it's something that's inherently there. It's just like we're a third eye or party that will help them figure things out. I think, at this time, it's very important to have a very unique perspective and very original voice. We help them find that. 

Aeson Baldevia, Featured Photographer in "Before They Are Gone"

How do you find them? How do you know if it's a match?

Prim: When we have a set of artists we wanted to work with, we try to match them with the artists that we know from all the exhibitions we've attended who might share the same strokes, colors, concepts with them. So, at the end of it, when they first introduce their artwork in Metro Manila, even if it's a two-person exhibition, they would still be able to showcase their originality. We also try to push our boundaries. Most of the two-person exhibitions in Metro Manila, they're both painters. For our first exhibition, we had an oil painter and a cold-cast marble sculptor. And it's always a balance of a young and a seasoned artist. 

Karen: Sometimes, it's serendipitous, I guess. For that first exhibition, we were in Ilo-ilo and we dropped by one of the galleries, Casa Real. And there was an ongoing exhibit with the Cold-Cast Marble sculptor. And when I saw it, I immediately loved it. And I wanted the artist to do a mother and child piece. Then we saw the works of the oil-painter. We've already heard about the oil painter prior to that. But when we were thinking about who to feature for the first exhibit, it's as if it just naturally clicked. The oil painter features mainly women and children in her paintings, and the cold-cast marble sculptor has this whole series about women. That's when we came up with the theme: The Quiet Strength of a Woman. But we had it in Ilonggo—Ang Maugdang nga Kusog sang Babaye—because they're both from Ilo-ilo.

I think we’re also very fortunate that Prim travels a lot for his NGO. He’s always around different towns across the Philippines. It’s also about maintaining relationships in the art world—maintaining relationships with artists and gallery owners. It’s like a net effect of keeping in touch with people. 

Prim: It’s really trying to bootstrap. To work around available opportunities. Karen and I just do what we wanted as a concept and the type of artist that we want to work with. So, when all of these artists appear in exhibitions that we attend, there’s like a yes-or-no engine in our head.

Jovito Hecita, Featured Painter in "Before They Are Gone"

How is Curious Curator different in terms of the manner for art exhibition?

Prim: We only open for three days—Friday is the opening night, regular viewing is Saturday and Sunday. That’s how we wanted to curate differently. A usual gallery would have it for two weeks or so. For us, those are the days that we can afford to pay for the venue. We don’t do exhibitions in art galleries. So, we try to challenge ourselves in terms of curation. For our Day 2 which falls on a Saturday, we also send our artists for an art education, to visit art galleries and museums here because these are the venues that they have to witness and go to which are not accessible for artists outside Metro Manila because it’s very costly to go here. Part of the art incubation and acceleration that we do is we fly them to Manila. 

We also curate our own food. Why? Because part of appreciating the art is also engaging the audience in a multi-sensory experience. It’s actually more challenging to curate the food because we prepare them ourselves more than curating the arts. In terms of preparing the food, we have to get local produce, ingredients, and delicacies from where the artists come from or from where the concept was born. In addition, we also try to engage local brands to be partners—like a local beverage or local tea. 

Karen: We try to humanize and Filipinize art appreciation. That’s why when we’re trying to create the concept, we try to come up with something that is very relatable and exciting. 

Prim: Apart from that, when Karen and I were coming up with Curious Curator, we wanted the concepts, more than accessible, to be very relevant. We had to agree that it has to be positive and timely. It has to be engaging. We’re also very blessed to work with not just skilled artists but artists who come from very beautiful stories. 

Karen: But it’s not like a conscious choice to pick artists with interesting stories. They just unravel on their own. While we interact with them, we learn about their personal histories 

Why did you make the art exhibitions shorter? 

Prim: Because it would be really costly for a startup. Secondly, it’s a challenge for Karen and I to sell the artworks in the span of just three days. It’s also a barometer of how good the artists are. For people to buy the art or choose to actually go to our exhibition, we have to find all the ways that are creative and innovative to engage them. So three days is really a challenge for both of us.

Karen: Also, our main audience are people who are working or are students. So the weekends are also a time for people to come and spend time. Prim and I also have our full-time jobs. The short span of the exhibit also forces people to come. It’s like a declaration that they have to see us “before we are gone”. 

Prim: No one opens an art exhibit on a Friday. It’s the time for gimmicks. But we took that risk. Maybe we could give people a better use of their time to appreciate humanity and the arts. 

One side of your equation is giving an avenue for these artists, taking them to Manila from Visayas and Mindanao. Can you tell us about the other?

Karen: The other side of it is that our networks consists of young professionals and young founders. And we really want to introduce them to the concept of honing original Filipino art. I think, that’s also one of the reasons why we came up with the pop-up concept and not holding it in a traditional gallery. We wanted it to be in a place that’s familiar and very, very accessible. So, the other part of the equation is also being able to share the experience of loving art with others. That was the other part of our equation. We really wanted to take it away from a gallery setting. Because it’s intimidating. You engage people in conversation and they ask you, “So who’s your favorite artist?”

Prim: During the informal survey that we did before we came up with the framework of the Curious Curator, we asked people what makes them attend an art exhibit. A lot of people felt that the opening nights of an art gallery are very elitist at some point. I think it also worked for us as Curious Curators founders that we're not coming from a very strict art background. Our network is also not the very prolific pool of art collectors. We’re not proteges from that background. In fact, we have different taste for art. So, when a lot of people are intimidated by the arts, we just wanted to humanize the arts in the Philippines. We wanted to show that the arts is actually for all. That’s also one of the reasons, aside from not having resources, why we do everything as far as curation is concerned—we write our exhibition notes with the promise that we write the words in the most understandable way possible. 

Because art should be storytelling. If you don’t make use of accessible words, how can you tell and engage people? 

Karen: For our third, I guess, this is the most demanding exhibit to date because it’s like we’re curating three things.

Prim: The third is entitled Before They Are Gone. It’s a visual homage to the Panay Bukidnon Tribe in Ilo-ilo. It was a very risky concept because it’s not usual here in Manila to actually feature a photographer and a painter to collaborate on a concept as a tribute to Panay Bukidnon. But Karen and I always felt that the arts should also serve that heritage value. 

It’s also a dying indigenous community and I come from that region. And I strongly felt that despite the unpopularity of the concept, we just have to risk it. Besides, we’ve been risking it since our first exhibition. 

And a photographer and a painter together? Really? But they’re both from Negros. So this exhibition is really a way to educate people that there’s this indigenous community in Ilo-ilo. Hopefully, our exhibition would not make "Before They're Gone" a painful reality in our time—that it would never happen, that they’ll be phased out.

How did you know about the indigenous community? 

Prim: I’ve always been a conscious heritage advocate. And I’ve always been there.

Karen: He once had a talk in Capiz and he decided to go up to the mountain, to visit that particular community.

Prim: They’re very authentic. They weave their own textiles, they embroider patterns, and they’re different in terms of their values in the community and their lifestyle. They handcraft all their jewelries. Then it just emotionally hit me—how come we have this beautiful and authentic heritage? 

How about the artists for this concept?

Karen: In a way, it’s also serendipitous. Because we actually wanted to feature Sir Otay, the painter, way before, but it never seemed to work out. Then, when Prim shared with me his experience with the community, it just dawned on us that Sir Otay’s style seems perfect for this. In that sense, it was serendipitous. It’s actually good that we didn’t push through with him the first time because this concept for him is perfect. 

Prim: We feel like there’s a divine intervention in the midst of all of this. For us to actually merge a very relevant concept to be articulated by really powerful artists. From that perspective alone, we consider ourselves very lucky to be working on concepts with very new artists and to get to see their artistic journey. 

In terms of the venue, we’re also very lucky again to encounter a young entrepreneur from the 14th floor of Sagittarius Building. It took us months to find the perfect venue because we wanted something industrial or some sort of an unfinished venue. Because the concept is "before they’re gone". If we do not take action or get ourselves educated about their existence, they might really be gone or finished. So we wanted a space that is unfinished, and where can we find one in Makati? The owner of the space also took a risk in allowing us to borrow the venue, his yet unfinished co-working space. We also liked that one can get a view of the high-rise buildings outside. It creates a very interesting contrast—you have sprawling buildings but you have a regressing community. 

Why did you call it “Curious Curator”?

Prim: ‘Cause we’re not professional curators at all. *laughs*

Karen: Also, I think curiosity is the start of many different adventures. 

Prim: In terms of our framework, the strategies, they’ve always been driven by What-if questions. And “Curator” because we just wanted to bring back how art engages people. Our logo also captures what the concept is all about. It’s like a keyhole. 

Karen: Yes, you try to peek through a keyhole and try to see what’s inside. We wanted to open that door of curiosity for the artists, and introduce them to a whole new community of art lovers, galleries, and art enthusiasts. 

Prim: But, really, the real reason is that we’re not professional curators. We’re just curious. We won’t fake that answer. *laughs*

Any other thoughts that you want to share?

Prim: We’re at the stage that Filipino artists are celebrated in very important stages, exhibitions, here and abroad. And we wanted Curious Curator to be a platform for these very talented yet very young artists outside of Metro Manila who also have that hope to someday become professional artists. That’s the part that I love the most about Curious Curator. 

Karen: At the end of the day, we just really wanna share not only the talent of these artists but really share love for the arts. And encourage people to appreciate how Filipino art helps mold Filipino society, forming our identity as a nation. That’s one of our main drivers as well. 

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